Mandatory Disclosure Rules

Background

In March 2018, the OECD issued new model disclosure rules that require intermediaries to inform tax authorities of any schemes they put in place for their clients to avoid reporting under the OECD/G20 Common Reporting Standard (CRS) or prevent the identification of the beneficial owners of entities or trusts. The rules follow a brief consultation, the responses to which have seemingly not significantly changed the proposed rules.

The two major modifications appear to be the changing of the date for retrospective disclosure, from 15 July 2014 to 29 October 2014, and increasing the amount of time to disclose an avoidance arrangement or offshore structure from 15 to 30 days. Legal Professional Privilege is addressed in the Q&A accompanying the rules, which states that 'the rules do not require an attorney, solicitor or other admitted legal representative to disclose any information that is protected by legal professional privilege or equivalent professional secrecy obligations, but only to the extent that an information request for the same information could be denied under Article 26 of the OECD Model Tax Convention and Article 21 of the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters'. The OECD says that the new rules do not affect a jurisdiction's CRS legislation; rather, these are information-gathering tools that seek to bolster the integrity of CRS. Individual jurisdictions implementing these model rules would need to take into account domestic specificities in their own CRS legislation. These model disclosure rules have been submitted to the G7 presidency for formal approval.

Influence local policy and media

Although the OECD has produced the MDRs it will be down to the government of each member country to implement them in their own jurisdictions. As leading experts in this field STEP members are well placed to engage with policy members contribute to the public policy debate in their own regions.

Key messages

We have produced a flyer – What is STEP? – which aims to explain what we do and what our members do. This is available to view here, and hard copies can be ordered from the STEP office free of charge by emailing [email protected].

STEP’s Policy Point on the MDRs outlines the following lines to take:

  • The current hallmarks are too broadly drafted and risk causing confusion.
  • The retrospective elements of the proposals will pose major implementation challenges and may be unconstitutional in some jurisdictions.
  • In their current form the rules will threaten legal professional privilege.
  • The plans will create a duty for citizens to inform on one another.
  • STEP asks for further, lengthier and detailed consideration of such changes, given the inadequate length of the previous consultation period and the potential impact of the MDR.

Engaging with policymakers

Our policy team has provided the below tips and best practice suggestions for engaging with policymakers at a local level.

Help not harass

You want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Acknowledge where problems exist and help to develop solutions that meet the needs of both your members and the policymakers.

Keep calm

You may feel strongly about an issue, but you must remain professional and practical in any negotiations with policymakers. Consider the language you use and avoid confrontational statements. Policymakers will respond more positively to constructive, rather than confrontational, feedback.

Keep it simple

Policymakers are not necessarily technical experts and any points need to be made in clear, non-technical language. Any written responses should be succinct and to the point.

Balanced view

Any advice should focus solely on how best to address the issue and be independent of political bias.

Tell us about it

Our Policy Team has developed excellent working relationships with a number of national and international bodies. Before embarking on any activity, please first contact us to determine if working relationships are already established. If you have provided a consultation response, send it to us to include on our online Consultation Tracker.

Establish a Technical Committee

A number of branches and regions have established Technical Committees to consider local issues and develop responses to local consultations. These Committees generally consist of top industry experts with in depth knowledge of local or national tax and legal issues. Members of the Committee can be called on as spokespeople as necessary.

Business cards

Some branch/chapter/national committees print STEP business cards for use by their committee members. It may be useful for certain committee members to have these STEP cards (for example in meetings with government on technical matters and approaching potential sponsors of conferences, etc.). However, these cards should be used only for STEP business, recognising that STEP is a professional organisation, and not for the business promotion of an individual member.

Media and press support

Obtaining positive media coverage of local STEP work and achievements can really help to build awareness of STEP and we would encourage you to engage with local press and media in this respect.

We have developed a Media Toolkit for branches and chapters, which contains:

  • Media release tips
  • Example press releases
  • Key messages
  • Media FAQs

The Media Toolkit is available on the Branch Portal. If you would like further information, or help with or advice on engaging with policymakers, please email [email protected]